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Procession fit for a 'living saint'

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Will process of sainthood be hastened for Mother Teresa?

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Will process of sainthood be hastened for Mother Teresa?

Mother Teresa September 13, 1997
Web posted at: 1:04 p.m. EDT (1704 GMT)

From Rome Bureau Chief Gayle Young

ROME (CNN) -- Now that Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa has died, many people feel the selfless and compassionate woman should be declared a saint -- and soon.

But the road to sainthood often takes decades, if not centuries, as the Catholic Church ponders whether a candidate was holy enough to earn the special title.

Because of her tireless work with the poor and others discarded by society, many people considered Mother Teresa a "living saint" during her lifetime.

"In Mother Teresa's case, I think it's a person that was representing and working for people who are forgotten by society," said U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond Flynn. "That is the reason she will have a very special place as a saint, in being a saint of the poor."

Pope valued Mother Teresa's work

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, who greatly admired Mother Teresa and her work, is likely to carefully consider the call for her canonization. The pontiff has declared a record number of saints in his years as head of the Catholic Church.

Since assuming the papacy in 1978, he has canonized 278 people and beatified 768. Both numbers exceed those of all other popes this century put together.

Traditionally, saints have been European, but in recent years the Vatican also has declared saints from Africa, South America and Asia.

While some of the pope's choices for sainthood have been controversial, Mother Teresa is almost universally seen as an ideal candidate.

Process of sainthood a lengthy one

But even so, the Vatican cannot declare her a saint overnight. There must be an investigation into her life, which normally begins five years after death. In addition, there must be proof that she is responsible for at least one miracle.

A likely candidate is then "beatified," which means people may pray to the person and ask he or she to intervene with God on their behalf. Beatification reflects the pope's declaration that a deceased person is in heaven and is worthy of veneration.

Canonization, or full sainthood, follows after an undetermined number of years. The Vatican may consider speeding up the process for Mother Teresa, but Archbishop John P. Foley told CNN that this kind of accelerated procedure was normally not done. icon 145K/13 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

A CNN/Time poll of Americans showed 51 percent want the church to follow the standard procedure for canonization, even it means Mother Teresa will not be declared a saint for a century of more.

In her lifetime, the nun was internationally admired for her selfless commitment to lead a simple life. She often said that the poor gave her more than she could ever give them.

Because of these qualities, many Catholics want to formally give her the title she shunned on Earth: Saint Teresa.

Mother Teresa special section
Mother Teresa special section

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